All of Matt_Sharp's Comments + Replies

saulius's Shortform

Hi Saulius, I've done 3 very basic estimates here:

To get e.g. more than 20% probability, it seems like you'd have to make some very bad assumptions (weirdly high base rates of Covid amongst presumptive attendees, combined with incompetence or malice when it comes to testing). Seems more like 1-5% risk.

6saulius6dThank you Matt!! After reading your answer I bought the ticket :)
Concerns about AMF from GiveWell reading - Part 1

Have you read this GiveWell page on bed nets? They state:

There is strong evidence that when large numbers of people use LLINs to protect themselves while sleeping, the burden of malaria can be reduced, resulting in a reduction in child mortality among other benefits.

Or this Cochrane review? 

Insecticide‐treated nets reduce child mortality from all causes by 17% compared to no nets (rate ratio 0.83, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.89; 5 trials, 200,833 participants, high‐certainty evidence). This corresponds to a saving of 5.6 lives (95% CI 3.6 to 7.6) each year for e

... (read more)
1JPHoughton3dThanks for the comments Matt. I've adjusted and improved the post based on your input. I was aware of this info and assumed everybody else would be too, so I just took it as read. However, I agree these points are not clear enough in the original post above. I've now changed the heading to add the clarity that it only applies to non-RCT/"real world" distributions. I've also inserted a sentence in the final paragraph to make it clear the RCTs do show such evidence and this is the basis for GiveWell's recommendation.
[Creative writing contest] Blue bird and black bird

Yeah, and I don't think the example of the sprout maps particularly well to catastrophic risks in itself. 

If the sprout grows into a giant oak tree that is literally right next to their current tree, it seems like they could easily just move to the giant oak tree. It sounds like the 'giant oak' would eventually be bigger than their current tree, meaning more space per bird, allowing for more birds. Oh and some birds eat acorns!

In this case I think black bird could be making things worse for future birds.

4Lizka1moFair point, thank you! If I have some time, I might replace the sprout with some other kind of risk (maybe something flammable), but I haven't though about it very carefully yet, and would definitely take suggestions.
Concern about the EA London COVID protocol

Worth noting that this evening (6th September) there are reports that a COVID 'firebreak' could be imposed around the time of EA Global London, which could either force the event to be cancelled entirely, or lead to other restrictions being mandated (masks, social distancing, travel). Only tentative rumours so far, but it seems plausible.

7BarryGrimes2moHi Matt. Thanks very much for flagging this. We've seen the reports too and we're developing plans for what we'll do if the 'firebreak' does go ahead. We'll provide further updates as more information becomes available.
Moral dilemma

Re your 3rd question, this may be a relevant starting point (and see the bibliography and related entries):

1Tormented2moThanks for your answer :-) I'll store this somewhere and try to think about it when my brain is able to :-)
Gifted $1 million. What to do? (Not hypothetical)

Hi Ben. I'm the Principal Analyst at SoGive. As well as offering advice, we may be willing to undertake bespoke analysis and research on specific charities or cause areas, depending on what questions you have. If this may be of value to you, please contact Sanjay 

I'd also endorse the other responses to your question. If you follow-up on all the suggested articles, and do some thinking about the various questions, then you will be better placed to understand whether you actually want or need SoGive's input.

Most research/advocacy charities are not scalable

Yeah, in the same thread Ben tweets:

4) There is plenty of funding, a fair number of interested junior employees, and also some ideas for megaprojects. The biggest bottleneck seems like leadership. Second would be more and better ideas.

But the EA Infrastructure Fund currently only has ~$65k available

If there is plenty of funding, is it just in the wrong place? Given Ben's latest post should we be encouraging donations to the EA Infrastructure Fund (and Long-Term Future Fund) rather than the Global Health and Development Fund, which currently has over $7m av... (read more)

But the EA Infrastructure Fund currently only has ~$65k available

Hi, thanks for mentioning this - I am the chairperson of the EA Infrastructure Fund and wanted to quickly comment on this: We do have room for more funding, but the $65k number is too low. As of one week ago, the EAIF had at least $290k available. (The website for me now does show $270k, not $65k.)

It is currently hard to get accurate numbers, including for ourselves at EA Funds, due to an accounting change at CEA. Apologies for any confusion this might cause. We will fix the number on the web... (read more)

5Benjamin_Todd3moI'd be happy to see more going to meta at the margin, though I'd want to caution against inferring much from how much the EA Infastructure Fund has available right now. The key question is something like "can they identify above-the-bar projects that are not getting funded otherwise?" I believe the Infrastructure team has said they could fund a couple of million dollars worth of extra projects, and if so, I hope that gets funded. Though even that also doesn't tell us much about the overall situation. Even in a world with a big funding overhang, we should expect there to be some gaps.
Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Thank you! This is helpful - I'm currently looking at CATF as part of my work with SoGive. The case CATF makes seems sensible and evidence-based, but given my relative lack of expertise in this area it's hard to know how they selective they are being in terms of the evidence they present. So it's useful to have an outside view.

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Clean Air Task Force appear to take the position that, while renewables can dominate the production of electricity over the coming decades, we need some 'firm' clean energy to fill-in during weeks/months of low sun and wind. If we don't do this, they argue that we will need vastly more renewables, which will increase the cost and lead to issues around land use, and ultimately put at risk achieving zero carbon.

  1. What do Johannes and John think are the strongest arguments against this line of reasoning? Or put differently, what do they think are the strongest
... (read more)
2jackva5moMy position is roughly the following: 1. I agree with this line of reasoning in the way that CATF presents it, i.e. that while there is a possibility that intermittent renewables alone could be sufficient, this is not particularly like and, crucially, this is not where most climate risk is that we should hedge against. Of course there is (and CATF acknowledges this) a future where intermittent renewables solve almost the entire decarbonization challenge, but this requires a lot of things to go right including (1) continued cost reductions, (2) solving the challenge of seasonal storage, (3) massive transmission infrastructure, (4) very cheap conversion technologies to zero-carbon fuels (related to 2) for storage, transport applications and industrial applications, etc., (5) a world where many regions with poor renewable resources are happy to remain / become more energy-dependent, (6) a re-organization of the global energy market that finds a way to provide revenue to zero-marginal-cost resources, etc. This is probably not impossible, but it does not seem very likely. In the same way that we are prioritizing AGI-safety interventions that do not assume that AGI is inherently safe, I don't think we should assume this to all work out when thinking about high-impact philanthropic interventions. Indeed, because damage is concentrated in world where this does not work out, we should probably focus on stuff that works in those futures. 2. Storage would solve some of this, in particular if it is chemical storage (rather than electric) because zero-carbon fuels can also be used to create heat for residential and industrial applications, to power heavy-duty transport, to store energy over seasons, etc. But it needs to get really cheap if we only rely on intermittent renewables (because the storage/conversion tech would not work 24/7, i.e. not be optimally economical). It doesn't solve potential problems around land use and potential energy, of course. 3. I would say adva
Looking for more 'PlayPumps' like examples

I thought it was a joke at first, too! Maybe they will inadvertently do some good in the world if their example helps recruit future EAs

Looking for more 'PlayPumps' like examples

Agree that it seems unlikely to replicate. It would be interesting to see if e.g. hospitals are now funding Make a Wish on the grounds of it saving them future costs

3calebp5moI thought this was a joke at first but I assume this [] is the org, thanks for the suggestion!
Matt_Sharp's Shortform

Yeah, he's not supposed to be a pleasant character, and is typically satirising some of the nastiness of the British press (both then, but still relevant even now). In another episode his interviewing technique caused Australia and Hong Kong to declare war on each other:

Matt_Sharp's Shortform

Saturday night fun: ineffective fundraising

I've been rewatching an old 90s British satirical news programme, and came across this brutally brilliant sketch. It's almost proto-EA 

It was funny until he insulted her appearance. Then 🤢

We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

"Please stop cheery picking one or two points which are tangential to the actual argument"

Your argument is only based on anecdotal evidence. I'm happy to address many of your points, but if you're not actually willing to accept a significant amount of evidence as to the health benefits, I don't see why you expect us to accept your anecdotal evidence concerning jobs.

I'm happy to discuss the question of choice, though you seem to also oppose Give Directly, which precisely provides people with more choice.

I expect you to write an unnecessarily long response to this.

We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

"But we don't have good evidence that bednets are in fact being used in these communities and are actually actively reducing malaria rates"

Yes we do. For example, this systematic review considers 22 randomised controlled trials which look at morbidity and mortality from malaria:

Note the difference in outcomes between insecticide-treated nets and untreated nets. Locally-produced nets are likely to be untreated, which aren't very effective.

This study finds that the impact of scaling-up supply of bednets ... (read more)

0carneades5yLet's back up, because you are continuing to ignore two of my arguments against AMF, that they create dependency, and that they limit freedom. I'm skeptical of the studies for many reasons, everything from a lack of professional ethics of local translators and surveyors, to the troubles of conducting longitudinal studies with children in compounds which often have different children staying in them from day to day, to dissimilarities between what AMF does and what is done in these studies, to philosophical concerns that I have with any such studies that I have from a methodological standpoint []. However, the claim I make at the top of the article is that we need to reassess the criteria that we use for determining an effective charity, while debating whether or not the interventions of AMF do what they claim to do may help us to determine if it is inevitably effective, it misses the central point, that effective altruists ignore metrics like job creation, freedom and dependence when evaluating charities. You still have failed to address the problem of choice. Why can you not care less about what the people want? Why do you think that money gives someone the right to determine how others live their lives? Should we live in a world where only those with money have the right to choose what happens to everyone? That's the world AMF promotes. By giving to charities that ignore the voices of the populations on the ground you perpetuate the culture of corruption, ubiquitous in modern politics (especially here). People here feel powerless to change their own destinies, because you decided their destiny for them. You condemn them to a generation of poverty with the hope that their economy will recover, when maybe they don't want that. If I told you that you could live in poverty for 30 years and based on some economic models which may or may not apply you can improve in your income modestly afterward would you agree? If someone yo
We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

"It is a good question, why, if the data is flawed or dubious, should you believe that there is economic harm taking place? I would return to the point of choice. If foreigners do not have sufficient data to determine that a particular intervention would do more good than harm, I see no reason that they should have the right to override the will of the community."

We have good evidence and reason to believe that bednets reduce the incidence and burden of malaria. The big question is over the economic impact, not so much the health impact.

So it se... (read more)

0carneades5y"We have good evidence and reason to believe that bednets reduce the incidence and burden of malaria. The big question is over the economic impact, not so much the health impact." But we don't have good evidence that bednets are in fact being used in these communities and are actually actively reducing malaria rates, and I have experiential evidence that communities are not using these nets, and both families and health workers are lying to researchers when they come through about net use and malaria prevalence. Are some families using them, possibly. Is it significantly fewer than what AMF claims, I would argue yes. To conflate AMF and bednets is to miss the whole point. There will be bednets without AMF. Those bednets will go to communities that actually want them and would pay for them, and support local jobs either in factories or import businesses. With AMF, the communities that want bednets will still get them, so there's no impact there, and communities that don't want them will not use them, so there's no impact there. The only appreciable impact is the loss of jobs and infrastructure to get nets to those that want them without AMF's help. As for the claim about reduced malaria rates increasing household income, the study you quote claims that shocks like drastic malaria reduction would reduce household incomes for 30 years and significantly increase populations. In a country like this where there are already too few jobs and most people are barely getting by, that could be catastrophic. Most communities might not survive to see the eventual increase in household income, which comes as much from higher rates of education as anything else according to the study. To the final point, I don't have the statistics, as noted above, I'm skeptical of any statistics that are coming out of this part of the world, because of the culture around telling strangers what they want to hear. Without accurate information, I feel, once again we must default to what the peop
We Must Reassess What Makes a Charity Effective

If there is an absence of accurate data, why should we believe that supporting AMF destroys more jobs than it creates?

It sounds like it is (anecdotally) easy to point to some people who have been hurt by distribution of free bed nets (local producers), but if there are economic benefits from reducing malaria, then any job gains will likely be spread amongst many sectors. You won't be able to identify such job gains through anecdotal evidence.

On a side-note, there is a blog post on the AMF website from 5 years ago discussing this issue of where they buy the... (read more)

0carneades5yIt is a good question, why, if the data is flawed or dubious, should you believe that there is economic harm taking place? I would return to the point of choice. If foreigners do not have sufficient data to determine that a particular intervention would do more good than harm, I see no reason that they should have the right to override the will of the community. If we cannot get correct data as to which interventions would help a community the most, why can we not instead simply ask the community what they want? If anyone knows what they need, it would seem that the community would. I'm not certain that more harm than good is being done, but I have seen enough anecdotal evidence of poorly conducted studies and visible harm, that I am quite concerned. It seems that in the absence of sufficient evidence we should revert to the will of the community. As for benefits unidentifiable in anecdotal evidence, if we go under the assumption that studies here are inherently flawed, then these benefits will not be able to be measured until the society develops to a point where such studies provide accurate and useful data. Therefore all we have to go on are questionable studies and anecdotal evidence. Once again leading to an impasse and it seems that the tie should go to what the communities themselves actually want. In terms of the question about the economic benefits of reducing malaria, certainly they exist, the question we are asking is which benefits are greater, reducing rates slowly by supporting the sustainable growth of local businesses which are combating malaria, or reducing rates quickly while harming local businesses, limiting the choices of local populations, and increasing dependency on foreign aid? I think a strong case can be made for the former, but if we fail to analyze charities based on the amount of choice they give to populations and the level of dependency they create, we won't even be asking this question. As for the question of where AMF buys their n